EU's top court gives opinion in first Irish language case, on pet medicine

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the European Court of Justice is pictured outside the main courtroom in Luxembourg January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's top court on Thursday issued an opinion in its first case heard in the Irish language, almost 50 years after Ireland joined the bloc, in a case relating to an Irish man wishing to see dual-language labelling on his dog's medicine.

The Court of Justice of the European Union can hear cases in any of the bloc's 24 official languages. English and Irish are Ireland's official languages but no cases had been brought in Irish since it joined the EU in 1973.

The case centred on an Irish language activist's complaint that the Irish government had failed to implement existing EU rules requiring veterinary medicines sold in Ireland to be labelled in Irish as well as English.

Ireland's High Court ruled the Irish state had flouted the EU regulations, but given that from 2022 new EU rules would mean Ireland no longer has to use both languages in such labelling, it asked the court in Luxembourg whether it was worth ordering the use of both languages for just a few months.

Michal Bobek, an advocate general of the Court of Justice, said on Thursday that the upcoming rule change did not prevent the man, Peadar Mac Fhlannchadha, bringing his claim.

The judges of the Court of Justice will make a ruling later. They follow opinions of advocate generals in the majority of cases, but are not bound to do so.

"My client is very satisfied that he is one of the parties in the first case before the Court of Justice that has Irish as the language of the proceedings" Sean O Cearbhaill, the applicant's solicitor, told Reuters.

The EU court said in its opinion on Thursday it was up to the Irish court to decide whether to grant the applicant's request to see dual-language labelling.

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, editing by Marine Strauss and Alexandra Hudson)

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